No doubt, listening to podcasts can significantly improve your understanding of spoken Russian speech. However, there are two problems:
The first – there are such a small number of Russia-related podcasts. And the ones that we usually hear are not helpful, neither to learners nor to those who want to learn more about the country.
The second problem is how to find the podcast that matches up to your language level. Good news, guys! Quality podcasts exist! And with this post, you’ll be able to pick the one that best suits your comfort level.
To choose a perfect podcast in Russian look over the following categories:
- Russian learners podcasts – specially designed to grow your proficiency in Russian.
- Native Russian podcasts – designed for Russian speakers.
- Cultural podcasts – for those who want to learn more about Russia.
In each section, you’ll find a big number of podcasts for iTunes, Spotify and from YouTube. I also provided tons of information about each of the podcasts so you’ll definitely be able to choose the one that will speed up your Russian comprehension.
But before we get there, I want to show you how to get full use of your time when listening to these podcasts.
How to Fully Utilize Russian Podcasts
Time is valuable, and I don’t want you wasting your time and quitting because you couldn’t find a podcast that suited you. I’m going to share with you 5 simple tips that will help you avoid some common mistakes that lead to people bailing on whichever podcast they chose
Don’t Translate Every Single Word
Look, first, you hear a word then you translate it into your mother tongue. While you have been doing this, no matter how short it takes, the narrator keeps on with his story. As a result, when you try to get back to the audio you lose track of your place. You can’t understand what the topic is anymore, it’s all too much. The result – an episode is not interesting to you anymore, and you switch to something easier.
Instead, turn off your “inner translator” and focus on what you hear. It doesn’t mean that you should turn into a passive listener, hoping that your subconscious will do the hard work for you. Be proactive in the right way: listen to the gist of things and don’t sweat missing words here or there.
Ask Yourself Important Questions
But how to make yourself a proactive listener? I totally understand how difficult it is to be engaged in what you are listening to, even in your native language. Our minds always drift to other things and we tune out – far away from the audio.
To stay focused, don’t be afraid to pause. Having listened to a 5-10 minute part of a podcast, pause it and ask yourself: “What was it about?”, “What words did I recognize?”. This practice helps you to remain an active listener, which is key to catching and understanding more and more words.
Listen Again – My Practice Proves it Helps
Here’s a real case from my practices. I ask my students to listen to a 3 minute audio clip in a native (not adopted) Russian language. Their first reaction: “We understood nothing!” So, I ask them to listen again. This time they begin recognizing separated words.
We listen to the conversation over and over again, and finally, new phrases began to emerge! As a result, they managed to understand up to 80% of the text. For an intermediate learner, 80% is more than enough to understand the idea and react properly. It’s not fluency, but it’s enough to get by and is tremendous progress! You can do that too!
Build a Habit of Listening to Russian
I don’t want to spew out obvious things but nevertheless, this one is a stumbling block for many Russian learners. You listen to a 1-hour podcast in Russian in the car, and the next day your brain says: “Oh, no… Thank you… That was too much…” and you turn on your favorite radio station.
Don’t fall into this trap! Listening to your podcasts should becoming a ritual, a habit as cleaning teeth or washing hands. Turn on a podcast while having your morning coffee or on your way to work, just for 4 minutes a day, for 2 weeks, but every single day. Then when the habit is fully formed you can put more time into it. I tried this approach myself with many things in my life and it actually works.
Listen to as Many Voices as Possible
I’ve put so many sources in the podcasts list for a reason. I encourage you not to stick to the one you like, but to listen to as many voices as possible. By doing this you’ll get accustomed to different pronunciations and intonations. You should also switch between different types of content: interviews, monologues, dialogues – all of this should be on your listening menu.
There is a number of very good podcasts that are specially designed to grow your abilities in Russian. They are specially adapted or provided with subtitles and exercises.
A big number of podcasts for learners are not free of charge. However, I focused on those that you can use for free (at least partially).
- Russian words’ usage and grammar
- More than 100 episodes
- A podcast is in English
This podcast is a real treasure for learners of all levels! It’s designed by Michele A. Berdy, a journalist, who has been writing the Word’s Worth column in the Moscow Times for more than 15 years. In 6-minute episodes, she explains the most tricky words of the Russian language as well as not so obvious aspects of Russian grammar. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot from the host!
- A podcast for complete beginners
- 30 episodes
This podcast is designed for complete beginners. A host, Mark Tomson will get you through all the stages of listening and comprehension. The episodes are audio lessons that you can make when you have a spare minute. They include tasks when you need to repeat what you’ve heard, this podcast is perfect for listening in a car while standing in a traffic jam.
- All about Russia
- Overall 79 episodes
- 12 episodes available on iTunes
- Full transcript and translation available
- Additional episodes for 20$
A very good podcast by Russian language tutor – the only one for learners in slow Russians that you can get on iTunes. Unfortunately, there are only 12 episodes available. The rest 79 you can find on the website here. Under each episode, there is a transcript and translation into English.
4. Easy Russian (YouTube)
- Different common topics
- 54 episodes available
- Transcription of Russian words with English letters
- Free (you can support via Pathreon)
This is a source I would totally recommend to all beginners. There you will see a series of short episodes, where a journalist questions citizens about different topics, such as freedom, hobbies, traveling and so on. She asks the same question to different people, so you can enlarge your vocabulary related to this area of life.
This is a good source with the help of which you can actually understand the speech of native speakers because all the episodes are not only dubbed in English but have a transcription where Russian words are written with English letters.
- Covers standard topics such as “family”, “character” and so on
- Overall 290 episodes
- 36 free episodes + PDF transcript
- Exercises – for any donation
- Membership: 1 month – 9,2 $, 1 year – 92$
This podcast will be good for those, who have just reached the medium learning level. As we can see from free episodes, they are devoted to very “scholar” topics and therefore they can become a very good addition to your learning routine.
There you will hear a dialogue at a slow pace, then the most difficult phrases will be explained, after that, you will hear the same speech at a normal pace.
First 36 episodes have a transcript, all the rest you can listen, but transcripts are provided only for members. A monthly membership also includes one video in slow Russian, access to a discussion group and an online meeting.
- Cover a wide range of “narrow” topics
- 36 free episodes and every month appear one new
- Pdf scripts available
- Premium subscription: 1 month – 12$, 3 month – 30$
This podcast covers a wide range of topics that you will hardly find in your students’ books. The authors discuss everything: from military conscription to leaks in pipes. This podcast has a strong focus on colloquial expressions.
However, unfortunately, they don’t offer any tasks that could help you to memorize new vocabulary better. However, to tackle this problem you could upload all the new words in Quizlet and repeat them when you have a spare minute.
- Russia-related topics and other
- 49 episodes
- Transcripts are available on the site of the project
Here you will hear spontaneous (not specially prepared), but very slow and comprehensible Russian speech. The host doesn’t limit himself with Russia-related topics. He’s talking many other things he’s interested in: psychology, self-development and so on.
8. Spoken Russian With Subtitles (YouTube)
- How to learn Russian
- 12 episodes available
- Subtitles in Russian
- Free (you can support via Pathreon)
In this podcast, the host is teaching Russian lexis and gives advice on how to grow your proficiency in Russian. The pace of his speech is average, which is good for middle-level and advanced students. For beginners – subtitles in Russia are available.
Native Russian Podcasts
At this first section I gathered podcasts made for native speakers. So, they are very natural: no slow speech, everything is very authentic
I picked those where hosts don’t speak a mile a minute and keep a normal and quiet pace. However, if that’s still too fast, keep in mind that you can slow down the speed of the recording on most devices.
“CritMosuse” is a podcast is designed for critically thinking people. Each week the team invites an interesting guest to discuss urgent problems in the modern world and scientific mysteries. The hosts (three enthusiasts) question guests about false Russian history, modern genetics, and even funerary traditions!
They speak clearly, at a normal pace, and you can use their episodes to challenge your understanding of various kinds of dialogue. This podcast is a great way to get a read on stereotypes and learn Russian at the same time.
10. Работник Месяца (iTunes)
Do you want to know what jobs are popular in Russia? Работник месяца (Worker of the Month) is a perfect guide to the working life of the country. The host interviews people from different professions and they share their working experience and up-to-date info. A surgeon, a perfumer, an astronomist have already told their stories to the world. Now you can, too!
A huge benefit of the program is that the hosts don’t speak too rapidly, and you can pick up on each of their individual styles.
11. Эйлер в России (iTunes)
“Eiler in Russia” – a podcast by Pavel Eiler – a local history expert, in which he is telling his audience about the most exciting places to go. It’s a must-listen podcast if you are planning to go to Russia. The host tells us about unexpected routes and new and unexpected places to see. So, if you don’t want to sweat on cramped streets in St. Petersburg, heed his words of advice! He will show you unique places where tourists are rare guests.
From an educational standpoint, his speech is slow and understandable. The lexiconused is not overly difficult, so an intermediate student will understand most of the information.
Each episode is an audio version of an article form the best world editors translated into Russian and voiced over by a team of professionals. So the speech of the reader is calm, as if you were listening to an audiobook.
There is no single topic that unites the episodes. Each of them is a very interesting piece of information on its own: womens’ expeditions on the North Pole; equality of people, animals, and robots; the history of condoms – the variety of articles is really diverse and great.
Arzamas’ Lectures is a series of podcasts on Russian history. It’s is a really valuable source because it is created by many academic historians and researchers. Here you will learn how the Gulag worked, who Tatars are and why they were important in Russian history, what lies between Russia and America, and finally, how to understand Russia.
The team of Arzamas is making many projects at once and the latest are available on iTunes. All the rest of their history podcasts you can find on their site.
14. Как Жить (iTunes)
Meduza – is a very popular online edition that has many different podcasts, but this time I want to recommend the one that is called “How to live?” Three hosts discuss reader’s pressing problems: how to make a daughter to complete the University, how to understand what you want if you work all day long and many many others. This podcast is perfect for those who want to understand the Russian perspective on eternal issues.
15. Эхо Москвы (iTunes)
This is the Russian radio personally I would recommend to all advanced listeners. This station is broadcasting shows that cover the most significant events in the life of the country. It’s famous for its open point of view and is considered to be an example of liberal journalism in Russia.
Unlike the previous examples, speech pace in most of the programs is high – just the same as people in Russia use to talk to each other. This time – no excuses! Just real and fast Russian.
For Those Who Want to Learn More About Russia (in English)
The following list of podcasts will be interesting for those of you who want to learn more about Russian history and culture. Be careful, very often, hosts of the Russian history podcasts are people with no academic degree in history, but I picked up the sources you can rely on.
16. History of Russia in 100 Minutes (YouTube)
This series of episodes that covers the most stages, events, and concepts of Russian history with accurate dates. It’s really 1 hour and 40 minutes long so, it is a perfect source to get a quick overview of the Russa’s past.
A wonderful podcast from Micke Duncan – a popular podcaster and the best New York Times selling author. The podcast is about revolutions generally, but Russians had many of them, so a large part of the show is devoted to regime changes in the country. If you’re curious to know how did classic Russian Empire turned into the Communist country of Soviets, begin listening from episode 10.1.
18. Russian History on History Hub (iTunes)
This podcast is created by professors of School of History, University College Dublin. The channel covers the most interesting topics of world history. If you scroll over the list of episodes you’ll find very interesting pieces, such as a discussion about the Russian revolution or the program about people, interested in Stalin’s personality or Easter democracy rising.
The podcast is hosted by CSIS Russia and Eurasia Program expert Jeffrey Mankoff and Olga Oliker. It analyses the problems of internal and external Russian politics, economical relationships of the country. The hosts interview professionals from Russia and experts outside the country. The podcast is highly recommended for those who want to get a deeper insight into the Russia-related questions and get more information from competent specialists.
This podcast is held by a family couple – Bukue One, and Yulia. They discuss various topics that are close to any person in the world: sex, relationships, attitudes to life and so on. That’s very interesting to hear how their cross-cultural relationships work and how do they (people from two very different countries) share views on many interesting topics.